A marriage of poetry, building science, and memories of a site
Construction has completed on a 3,600 sq.ft. contemporary home in Sheffield, Massachusetts, designed by Vincent Appel / Of Possible and built by Kent Hicks Construction. The home is a marriage of spatial poetry and building science. The timeless craft of traditional New England construction is met with the most advanced building science principles and technologies resulting in a contemporary expression of rural American architecture that will last for generations.
The site on which the client grew up as child in a colonial home rebuilt by their parents is located fifteen minutes south of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The original two story home on the property proved unsustainable for late life living and was relocated nearby for the client’s sister. The ambition for the new home became the creation of a contemporary design with a nod to the local vernacular architecture. The clients were looking for an architecture that engaged the memories of the original home on the site from their youth, which included an apple orchard, barn, and horse corral to the east, a long yard and gardens to the south, an evergreen and wetland ravine to the north, and a grand maple tree with a 70-foot canopy to the west. The clients were torn between wanting a glass house and something more traditional.
The result is a home where every window and door is a floor to ceiling picture frame of the spaces of memory throughout the property. The architectural finishes are a sober palette chosen to enhance the effect of these frames against the ever-changing seasonal New England landscape. Moving through the home over the course of the day, one is drawn from the inside spaces to the outside landscape. Similarly, when one approaches the home from the outside, the large terraces create similar exterior frames of the landscape as well as into the interior. This is a home for creating new memories and honoring old ones.
Of Possible, based in Brooklyn, New York, designed the home working closely with Kent Hicks Construction and Energy Efficiency Associates in Massachusetts. The project is an example of uncompromising contemporary design, conceptual architecture, and the application of sustainable building science. Working with Kent Hicks Construction, a contractor and Certified Passive House Consultant, the design team developed straightforward construction details to achieve Passive House level building assemblies. Though not certified, the home is built to meet Passive House Institute standards. Materials were sourced regionally, selected for low global warming potential, and detailed for ease of construction to last generations. Mechanical systems and energy loads were sized so that the home could achieve net zero energy performance with the addition of a small ground mounted solar panel array.
Architectural design, Vincent Appel / Of Possible —
Of Possible is a design studio working across spheres of architecture, urbanism, industrial design, sculpture, and large-scale public art. Founded by Vincent Appel in 2008 in New York City, Of Possible pursues architecture as a marriage between the poetry of space and building science. Bespoke teams are assembled for each project ranging in scale from furniture design, to single family residences, to multifamily urban developments, cultural, institutional, hospitality, and master plans. Of Possible approaches each design by looking for an architecture that is as unique as the patron that has commissioned the project.
General contractor, Kent Hicks Construction —
Kent Hicks’ commitment to mitigating climate change and passion to learn the best practices in building science have made him an innovative leader in the construction of high-performance buildings. From the Energy Crafted houses of the 1990’s to today’s Deep Energy Retrofits and Zero Net Energy buildings, Kent Hicks has garnered decades of technical expertise and a thorough understanding of emerging challenges, such as moisture management, superior indoor air quality, material toxicity and life cycle assessment of product and process. Kent’s search for the most responsible way to build led him to Passivhaus design, a standard that combines rigorous energy efficiency specifications with comfort and precision engineering quality.
Kent Hicks came to Western Massachusetts from the Oklahoma Panhandle in 1980 to study with acclaimed British furniture-maker, David Powell. After mastering the art of fine furniture making, he began building and renovating residential and commercial properties with the same commitment to craftsmanship. Today, his portfolio includes hundreds of beautiful, energy efficient new and renovated homes, as well as authentic historic restorations.
Photography, Rory Gardiner —
Acclaimed Architectural photographer, Rory Gardiner, has been commissioned to shoot the Sheffield Residence. Of Possible has brought Rory Gardiner over from Australia for his first shoot in the United States. Rory shoots using a large format plate camera and is world renowned for capturing the most impossibly calm light and atmosphere of his subjects. His timeless compositions and eye for subtle warmth, stillness, and texture are a highly sought after reprieve from a world where images are everywhere, immediate, and relentlessly saturated.
Furniture and interiors —
The furniture and interior selections of the Sheffield Residence were sourced regionally by Vincent Appel / Of Possible from the exceptional collections of George Champion Modern Shop, Wyeth, Warp & Weft, Carl Hansen & Son, The Splendid Peasant, Painted Porch Antiques, and Vincent Cafiero.